Sustainability Research

ATU takes an integrated approach to research, development, and innovation through its research centres, groups, and Innovation Hubs.


Marine Research

The Marine and Freshwater Research Centre (MFRC) is focused on the sustainable management of fisheries and their ecosystems, conserving biodiversity, and testing technologies that improve productivity in the seafood sector.


Heritage Research 

The Heritage Research Group focuses on the practical application and use of the past in the present e.g., in museum exhibitions, heritage site management, heritage tourism, public history, community archaeology, conservation, restoration, festivals, re-enactments, commemorations, genealogy, film, TV, libraries, archives, and creative digitalisation.

Recent work has focused on local history, historical geography, cultural identities, community mapping, landscape management, agri-environment schemes, environmental policy and planning, and nature conservation.


Engineering Research

The Engineering Research Group has several areas of specialisation including Advancement Manufacturing Engineering/Industry 4.0; Biomedical Engineering; Built Environment; Civil Engineering; Design and Innovation; Electrical and Electronics Engineering; Energy/Sustainability Engineering; Engineering Education; Mechanical Engineering; and Software Engineering.

GMIT’s integrated Sustainable Energy Technologies (iSET) research group was established in 2002 to assist Ireland’s transition from imported fossil fuels to locally sourced sustainable heat. This transition offers more comfortable and healthier living conditions as well as a more competitive and resilient Ireland.

iSET conducts applied research to design, integrate and demonstrate cost-effective, low-carbon heating solutions for cool-marine climate regions such as Ireland, Great Britain and the Benelux countries. Running cost and carbon emission reductions of over 60% and 90% respectively can be achieved relative to fossil fuels in domestic, commercial and industrial applications.

iSET has conducted over €3 million worth of research in conjunction with industrial and public-body stakeholders. Projects range from passive heat energy recovery to using artificial intelligence to generate grid optimised, hybrid energy supply solutions that utilise low-carbon grid electricity more efficiently.

iSET operates international standard test facilities and has devised a climate sensitive design and control strategy to assist performance characterisation and development of low-carbon heating products. 


Digital Academy for a Sustainable Built Environment

The Built Environment Collective consists of three research groups:

  1. Build360, focusing on circular economy and the built environment
  2. BIM Futures, focusing on BIM and digital transformation
  3. Future Build Educate, focusing on innovative built environment education

ATU's Department of Building and Civil Engineering is currently leading in collaboration with the Technological University of Shannon: Midlands Midwest (TUS), Tipperary Energy Agency (TEA) and the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC), a national Human Capital Initiative (HCI) funded project entitled ‘Digital Academy for a Sustainable Built Environment’ or DASBE.

The aim of DASBE is to upskill the built environment sector through the creation of a digital platform that will enable learners undertake a range of programmes ranging from micro-accreditation (including digital badges), Special Purpose Awards and Minor and Major Awards both at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

ATU, formerly GMIT developed the following programmes in 2021:

  • Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and M.Sc. in Circular Economy Leadership for the Built Environment (commenced in Oct. 2021).
  • Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and M.Sc. in Built Environment Regulation (due to commence in Jan. 2022).
  • Certificate in Fire Safety.
  • Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and M.Sc. in Building Information Management (BIM) and Digital Leadership (subject to validation).


Education for Sustainability Literacy to Sustainability Leadership

The Centre for Sustainability is leading a National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning project entitled ‘Sustainability Literacy to Sustainability Leadership’ funded under the Strategic Alignment of Teaching and Learning Enhancement (SATLE) in Higher Education fund.

The aim of this project is to develop a learning pathway for staff and students in ATU to become sustainability champions and leaders.

This project builds on a previously funded a National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning project entitled ‘Embedding Sustainability across the Curriculum and Beyond’, which established a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Leaders initiative to test a curriculum SDG mapping tool across a range of disciplines and support the online deliver of the Level 9 Education for Sustainability module as part of the M.A. in Teaching and Learning.


ATU as a Sustainable Energy Community

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has established a dedicated Sustainable Energy Communities (SEC) Network.

The SEC Network is a support framework designed to enable a better understanding of how communities use energy and to save energy across all sectors. The Network’s core purpose is to catalyse and support a national movement of SECs operating in every part of the country.

A SEC is a community in which everyone works together to develop a sustainable energy system. To do so, they aim as far as possible to be energy efficient, to use renewable energy where feasible and to develop smart energy solutions. A SEC can include all the different energy users in the community including homes, sports clubs, community centres, churches, and businesses. As of the end of 2021 there are approximately 500 SECs in Ireland.

A sustainable energy team was formed in 2017 to transform a GMIT vision to reality by 2025: that vision foresees that ATU will be recognised by its students, staff, and wider stakeholders as one of the leading third level institutes in Ireland for the energy performance of its buildings and contribution to sustainable energy awareness, education and research.

ATU’s SEC model will be central to Informing and Educating the energy citizen. The “energy citizen” includes ATU students and staff, but also citizens within the wider community in the region. 

Reflecting both ATU’s mission (‘life-long learning’, ‘supporting regional development’) and commitment to Civic and Community engagement, ATU’s SEC will have attributes unlike conventional SECs.  While it will seek to deliver typical goals such as increased energy efficiency and sustainable generation, ATU will also seek to transfer these sustainable energy concepts and practices to a transitory student population that replenishes every four years as students graduate. 

Secondly, ATU will also attempt to leverage the experience of establishing an SEC for the benefit of external SECs and the wider community. 

A novel aspect of our SEC will be the development of a gamification environment to educate students, staff and, in the long term, the outside community.

The primary objective of a gamification strategy in this project would be to steer the target community towards significant energy awareness and prolonged behaviour change. Gamification is rapidly growing in popularity among practitioners, business professionals and academics alike.

A ‘Gamification 2020’ report highlights how gamification, combined with other emerging trends and technologies, will have a significant impact on: innovation, the design of employee performance, the emergence of customer engagement platforms and the gamification of personal development.


Publications and Presentations (since 2017)

Kelly, M. (2021) abstract entitled ‘Exploring Opportunities to Embed Sustainability across the Curriculum in GMIT’, International Sustainable Campus Network Conference (ISCN) ‘Accelerating Climate Action and Sustainability in Education’ virtual conference, hosted by EPFL, Switzerland, 2-4 Jun 2021.

Kelly, M., Nicholson, G and Costello, M. (2021) abstract entitled ‘Enabling a Twin Transition: Digitalization for a Circular Built Environment’, submitted to the BIM Gathering 2021 ‘Construction Innovations for Future Generations’ conference, 20-24 September 2021, full paper due by June 2021.

Kelly, M., Scahill, J., Nicholson, G and Costello, M. (2021) abstract entitled ‘Rethinking Higher Education’s Role in Lifelong Learning for a Transformative Built Environment Sector’, submitted to the BIM Gathering 2021 ‘Construction Innovations for Future Generations’ conference, 20-24 September 2021, full paper due by June 2021.

Kelly, M. (2021) abstract entitled ‘From Sustainability Literacy to Sustainability Leadership in GMIT’, TUD Polytechnic Summit, June 1-4, 2021.

Gottsche. J. and Kelly, M. (2020) Assessing the impact of resource efficiency on selected case studies in Ireland, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Waste and Resource Management, 

‘BUILD 360 - Developing a Resource Management and Material Circularity Protocol for the Irish Construction Sector’ poster and abstract at the EPA Research Programme’s virtual, 28th of October 2020 and the EPA/HSE Environment Conference, 26th of November 2020.

Presentation entitled ‘Laying the ‘Foundations’ for Sustainability in Higher Education’ at the EUAC Virtual Global Climate Conference, November 16-20, 2020.

Presentation entitled ‘‘Exploring Interpretations of Sustainability by Built Environment Students through the Lens of the Sustainable Development Goals’ at the Teaching for Active Learning Conference, University of Southern Denmark, November 3, 2020.

Kelly, M. (2020) Non-Linear Thinking: Obsolescence within a Circular Built Environment, Architecture Ireland Journal, January/February 2020 edition.

Kelly, M. (2019) Exploring material circularity opportunities for a construction-SME on small-scale projects in Ireland, Buildings as Material Banks – A Pathway for a Circular Future Conference, 5-7 February 2019, Brussels, Belgium.

Gottsche, J. and Kelly, M. (2018) Assessing the impact of construction waste reduction on selected projects in Ireland, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Waste and Resource Management, V171(3), 71-81.

Abstract entitled ‘Taking an incremental approach to embedding Education for Sustainability initiatives into existing programmes in GMIT’, International Sustainable Campus Network conference, Sustainable Development – Acting with Purpose, hosted by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden on June 11-13, 2018.

Kelly, M. and Dowd, D. (2017) A review of construction waste management practices on selected case studies in Ireland, Waste and Resource Management, ICE Proceedings.


Presentation entitled ‘The GMIT Green Campus – The Story so far...’, at the Galway City Council Green Leaf Sustainability Stories event, NUI, Galway, 15th November 2017.